Q&A: Will England’s National Food Strategy help tackle climate change?

The government has actually committed to producing a white paper and proposals for future laws in action within the next 6 months, although the early action from UK prime minister Boris Johnson has actually been “noncommittal” to a lot of the NFS proposals, according to the Guardian.

The report, which is more than 150 pages long, sets out 14 recommendations for the UK government to think about, including financial rewards, reporting and trade requirements and targets for long-term change in the food system..

The first part of the strategy, published in July 2020, provided suggestions for the federal government to deal with food insecurity and cravings in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. The newly published second part has actually the specified objective of offering a “extensive strategy for transforming the food system”..

Last week, sequel of Englands National Food Strategy (NFS) was published, offering a broad overview of the state of the “food system”– an all-encompassing term that covers the production, processing, transport and intake of food– in England..

The NFS is the culmination of more than two years worth of meetings and dialogues with industry leaders, academics, policymakers and the general public.

In this Q&A, Carbon Brief explains and examines the report how its suggestions align– or do not line up– with the UKs climate targets and decarbonisation goals.

What is the National Food Strategy?

This report by @food_strategy has some interesting and far reaching ideas that would imply a huge modification for the much better in our food system and make us all much healthier. I hope that these plans will be used up by this government. https://t.co/gl5rZJCrhO— Mick Jagger (@MickJagger) July 15, 2021.

The reaction to recentlys release saw members of parliament, star chefs and even rockstars weighing in on its significance.

The NFS was commissioned by the UK federal government in 2019 as the very first independent review of the federal governments food policy in nearly three-quarters of a century.

Although the scope of the report covers England alone, it keeps in mind that the house nations “food systems are so securely interwoven regarding remain in locations inextricable”. It continues that it hopes the devolved federal governments “might in turn discover some useful concepts” in the strategy.

The report itself calls the food system “both a disaster and a miracle”. While the current food system can feeding the “biggest international population in human history”, it says, this comes at a high ecological cost. The report notes:.

Davey includes that, in his view, “every nation on the planet would gain from doing something of this kind”.

The NFS has actually definitely brought these concerns to the leading edge, Edward Davey, the global engagement director of the Food and Land Use Coalition, tells Carbon Brief.

Its goal was to offer a roadmap for transforming the food system from its current state to one that is healthier for the planet and the population..

Some have criticised the suggestion to tax wholesale sugar and salt as unjust or as disproportionately affecting lower-income families. Others state that the measures set out in the report do not go far enough towards making the food system more sustainable.

” The global food system is the single most significant contributor to biodiversity loss, logging, dry spell, freshwater contamination and the collapse of aquatic wildlife. It is the second-biggest contributor to environment modification, after the energy market.”.

Why is the food strategy important for taking on climate modification?

Almost half of all food-related emissions are because of farming, consisting of rearing animals. The methane produced by cows and other ruminants is “approximated to have triggered a third of total international warming considering that the commercial transformation”, the report notes.

The food system has actually seen significantly smaller sized reductions in sector-wide emissions considering that 2008 as compared to the economy as a whole: economy-wide greenhouse gas emissions have reduced by nearly one-third because 2008, however food-related emissions have actually reduced by only 13% over the exact same time..

Greenhouse gas emissions from the food sector as a portion of the 2008 emissions in that sector. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Essentially all of the gains made in the food sector have been due to cleaner energy and increased efficiency in the energy sector. Modifications due to agriculture have actually been negligible– as seen by the large green bar in the chart below.

Attempting to produce a healthier population while farming in a less damaging way needs collaboration throughout disciplines, Davey informs Carbon Brief. He states:.

” Theres quite a lot of siloed believing about the food system. So, from the viewpoint of integrated national policymaking that provides, its great.”.

” Without attending to the emissions of the food system, it will not be possible to fulfill those environment change responsibilities [set out by law] and to add to mitigating environment change.”.

Other significant contributors to the emissions consist of food, fertiliser and transportation manufacturing and product packaging..

Research study recommends that the food system is accountable for about one-third of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. And the numbers are about the same for the UK, Dr Marco Springmann, a population health researcher at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food, tells Carbon Brief. (The NFS report puts that figure at 19%, however various studies draw various borders around what counts as the food sector.).

Under its commitments to the Paris Agreement, the UK has vowed to minimize emissions from 1990 levels by 68% by 2030. The government has actually also set a lawfully binding target to accomplish net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Springmann states:.

What parts of the food strategy could make the biggest impact on environment modification?

” The concern is how rapidly will those reforms actually deal with the environment challenge … I think the jurys out. Is it not as ambitious as it should be, from the point of view of what the land sector needs to do to accomplish the UK nationwide targets?

Ensuring funding for farming payments up until at least 2029 at the current level of ₤ 2.4 bn in order to aid in the shift to sustainable farming. The report also states that a minimum of ₤ 500m of this ought to be “ring-fenced” for plans that motivate habitat remediation and carbon sequestration, such as peatland repair. Producing a “rural land use framework” that will advise on the very best manner in which any given piece of land must be utilized– whether for nature, something, bioenergy or farming else. The proposed structure utilizes the “three compartment model”, which pursues a balance between semi-natural land, low-yield farmland and high-yield farmland to fulfill the targets of both sustainability and food production.Investing ₤ 1bn in UK Research and Innovation and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), as well as smaller centres to stimulate development to “produce a much better food system”. The funds would be aimed at innovating fruit and veggie production, methane suppressants and alternative proteins, amongst other areas. Decreasing meat consumption by 30% over the next decade. The report stops short of recommending a tax on meat to achieve this aim (as it recommends for sugar and salt bought wholesale). Rather, it states, the federal government ought to aim for “nudging customers into changing their practices”. Introducing compulsory reporting on a range of metrics for food companies employing more than 250 people. These metrics would include the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a national food system data programme, which would enable services and the federal government to evaluate their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The program would include both the land-use data and the necessary reporting information explained above. Bringing these two types of information together, the report composes, will help “create a clear, accessible and developing photo of the effect our diet plan has on nature, environment and public health”.

Davey calls the recommendations a “good starting point”. He adds:.

A number of the suggestions made in the report relate in some way to climate change or environmental sustainability. These recommendations include:.

What are the limitations of the food method in resolving environment change?

” If you take the food system as a holistic thing, then you actually require to deal with all type of issues. And if you wish to address appropriately the ecological concerns, plus the health issues, you really have to deal with the overconsumption of animal-sourced foods in our diet plans.”.

” There are already a lot of meat substitutes on the marketplace and much more so when you think about natural meat substitutes like more beans, lentils and those kinds of things … Explaining more clearly that sustainable and healthy diet plan does not necessarily need to include processed meat alternatives would have been very important, but that was missed out on there and rather this sort of pro-business angle was taken.”.

The recommendations “seem to be almost sort of looking in reverse instead of looking forward”, Prof Maggie Gill of the University of Aberdeen, informs Carbon Brief. She adds:.

Gill also notes that the report, while extensive, does not fully think about the unintended consequences of its suggestions. For instance, a much higher proportion of fresh vegetables and fruits is wasted than meat. So the recommendations to consume less meat might increase the quantity of food waste.

Limousin beef cattle in a barn feeding on hay, Selside UK. Credit: John Bentley/ Alamy Stock Photo.

The report also “actually shied” away from taking a strong position on decreasing meat intake, Springmann says, with impacts on both the environment and public health. He says:.

” Another thing that appears to be missing is that foresighting, wheres the world going to from other sectors … Theres going to be a change in farming … And its going to take years [for the suggestions in the report] to come to fruition by which time the world might have changed.”.

The food system “is really intricate”, Gill states, “however I dont believe thats any excuse for not in fact highlighting a few of those concerns right at the start”.

The commissioning of the report– it was led by business owner and restaurateur Henry Dimbleby– implies the report itself “reveals a little bit of a skewed focus” towards business-focused options, Springmann says.

The recommendation towards investing in innovation lists alternative proteins as an essential area in requirement of research financing. However, Springmann says, the alternative-protein industry is currently extremely strong. He informs Carbon Brief:.

How does the food strategy address the competing interests of agricultural land use and land use for carbon sequestration?

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” The kind of land that might provide the best environmental advantages is frequently not really agriculturally productive. The most productive 33% of English land produces around 60% of the total output of the land, while the bottom 33% only produces 15%.”.

The report itself calls the food system “both a miracle and a catastrophe”. The proposed framework uses the “3 compartment design”, which aims for a balance in between semi-natural land, low-yield farmland and high-yield farmland to satisfy the targets of both sustainability and food production.Investing ₤ 1bn in UK Research and Innovation and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), as well as smaller centres to stimulate innovation to “produce a much better food system”. These metrics would consist of the tonnage of food waste generated.Creating a nationwide food system information program, which would enable services and the federal government to examine their development on the objectives laid out in the report. The right-hand side of the chart, utilizing the exact same scale, shows how much land is utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions associated with the supply chain of each product, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity expense”, meaning the amount of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food.

The chart below programs how all land in the UK is allocated (left) and just how much overseas land is used to produce food for the UK (best).

” Implementation of any of those recommendations actually requires political will … The recommendations themselves might have been more progressive, however even the ones that exist do not seem to resonate quite with policymakers that are in power at the minute.”.

” Globally, the most significant possible carbon benefit of consuming less meat would not really be the decrease in emissions, but the chance to repurpose land so that it sequesters carbon.”.

Nevertheless, UK prime minister Boris Johnson has actually currently indicated his hesitancy to support a few of the policy suggestions set out in the report. This does not bode well for the reports adoption, cautions Springmann:.

In order to deal with these completing interests, the report calls for a nationwide land-use technique to best assign land to nature, carbon sequestration and agriculture.

Developing the strategy will involve collecting information on agricultural efficiency, priority nature locations for preservation (such as existing peatlands) and highly polluted locations. It will likewise develop on work such as Englands trees and peat action plans– released previously this year– in order to identify the land best matched for nature repair..

The UKs Climate Change Committee (CCC) has actually estimated that just over 20% of agricultural land need to be rewilded or converted to bioenergy or other, non-agricultural crops in order to accomplish net-zero by 2050. The NFS report states:.

The government has dedicated to producing a response to the technique, including propositions for brand-new legislation, within the next 6 months..

Total carbon costs (kgCO2e) per kilogram of different food products. The teal bars indicate the direct emissions connected with the supply chain of each item, while the yellow bars reveal the carbon “opportunity cost”, implying the quantity of CO2 that could be sequestered in the land used to produce that food. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

The report keeps in mind that with the ideal incentives for farmers to repurpose their land, the method might be equally helpful towards farmers and the environment. It states:.

Lowering meat intake would likewise assist minimize the strain on land resources, the report finds. About 70% of the landmass of the UK is dedicated to agriculture, with feed and pastures for beef and lamb using up the vast majority of that land.

The chart listed below programs that when the carbon sequestration “opportunity cost” (yellow bars) is contributed to the emissions of different food groups (teal bars), the carbon cost of lamb and goat meat actually goes beyond that of beef, due to the big amounts of land required to graze those animals and their appetite for tree saplings.

UK acreage divided up by function. About 70% is devoted to farming, mainly animals and livestock feed and pasture. The right-hand side of the chart, using the very same scale, reveals how much land is utilized overseas to produce food for the UK. About half of the total land usage takes place overseas. The combined land location for rearing beef and lamb for UK usage is larger than the UK itself. Source: The National Food Strategy, Part II.

Nature-based options, such as peatland restoration and afforestation, are anticipated to play a significant role in lots of countries and companies net-zero targets, but much of these need the repurposing of farming land.

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As an outcome, the report says, the food system is being “asked to carry out a feat of balancings” in offering adequate land to produce the needed food, however also to alleviate greenhouse gas emissions.